Mediterranean Conservation Society

Mediterranean Conservation Society

About the Project

The recipient of the 2015 Blue Initiative Grant was the Mediterranean Conservation Society (AKD), based in Izmir, Turkey and founded by Zafer Kizilkaya. AKD has been building and overseeing Turkey's first community-managed Marine Protected Area (MPA) in Gokova Bay, just southeast of Bodrum.  One of the greatest difficulties surrounding MPAs is that once they are established, there is often little funding and few personnel to protect the area and enact any enforcement of regulations. Through innovative efforts, AKD engaged local government, divers, fishermen and tourists to collaborate on protecting the bay and their local ocean habitat.

One of the central parts of AKD’s campaign aimed to support and train more than 100 local fisherwomen in sustainable fishing techniques throughout Gokova Bay.  In Turkey, the profession is facing extinction due to overfishing and the lack of younger women learning the trade.  AKD actively changed the future of these local women. Through the CMG Blue Initiative, AKD created a short film about fisherwomen, for fisherwomen. In it, these strong and courageous women told their stories of family hardship, of the volatile fishing economy, and the promise of recovery that sustainable fishing brings. The film also highlighted a major shift in the Gokova Bay fisheries most wanted list: invasive species.

Invasive species inhabiting Gokova Bay became another key portion of AKD’s campaign.  Local fishermen and fisherwomen depended on the plentiful marine life of Gokova Bay for thousands of years. However, about a decade ago, the health of these waters went into a rapid decline due to both overfishing and new invasive fish species introduced into the bay. AKD created a campaign to promote consumption of these invasive species—directed towards the fishermen and women who catch them, as well as to fish markets, restaurants and consumers. The benefits to consuming these invasive species are many: it reduces the invasive population, creates new income for local fishermen & women, provides more affordable food sources for locals, and offers an overall boost to the local economy.

The Blue Initiative Grant provided the funding for AKD to produce a series of videos which promoted their campaign. In addition, they produced a short, 3–4 minute video for travelers who visit the area to educate them on the work being done by AKD.

About the Grantee

In addition to being an engineer, an underwater photographer, and a marine researcher, Zafer Kizilkaya is also the President and Founder of AKD.  Efforts to rehabilitate a stranded seal pup, which itself subsequently became something of an icon amongst local fishermen, led to Zafer’s commitment to Gökova Bay, which today is the focal point of his conservation work. He leads a series of conservation projects in the area including working with local fishing communities to promote alternative sustainable livelihoods.

After being selected as the Blue Initiative Grantee, Zafer attended CMG’s 2015 Catalyst Ocean workshop.  He was paired with film editor Ingrid Pfau and strategist Lauren Reid and the team developed an outline for how to approach the invasive fish species campaign which Zafer was able to bring back to Gokova to develop into a final product. Because of the workshop experience, Zafer decided to continue working with Ingrid and has hired her to help with final edits for the project.

AKD is also working with Fauna & Flora International. FFI is a capacity building organization based out of Cambridge, UK. Their marine program works with projects around the world to build capacity for locals to establish and grow their organizations.

Current AKD projects include:

• running small-scale pesca-tourism where local fisherman take out tourists for a one-of-a-kind experience which engages the travelers in protecting the bay

• engaging over 100 fisherwomen through trainings to help protect no-take areas

• working to raise the profile of invasive species in the bay as a new fishery

• supporting a Ghost Net Hunters team who scuba dive to cut abandoned fishing nets free

• creating a volunteer Ranger Project where locals patrol the bay to protect it; and

• conducting scientific research on the health of the bay

Project Updates and Milestones

Last year, the Mediterranean Conservation Society launched a community campaign to promote the catch and consumption of more than five different species of invasive fish. Through a summer fish tasting festival, invasive fish recipe cards, and two short films, AKD’s team successfully reached out to local fish markets, restaurants and consumers. The films, which marketed the attractiveness of incorporating the invasives into the local, daily diet, were shown locally in the fisherwomen’s cooperative market, as well as in local restaurants.

As a result of AKD’s invasive fisheries campaign, the fishing habits of the local people have changed for the better and their daily fishing incomes have increased. Prior to the campaign, the fisherwomen’s cooperative market could not even sell most of their invasive species catch. According to AKD’s daily catch records, the consumption and popularity of invasive species has increased 400% and the price of these fishes has grown at least 20% in the past year.

Watch Zafer's two films Fisherwomen (in both English and Turkish) and Invasive Species (in Turkish) below!

Mediterranean Conservation Society / Fisherwomen (English)

Mediterranean Conservation Society: Invasive Species (Turkish)

Mediterranean Conservation Society / Fisherwomen (Turkish)